This private tour starts in the afternoon with a drive south, through the Judean Desert to Masada, a steep mountaintop plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. Take the cable car to Masada’s flat summit where King Herod built his massive palace-fortress in 30BC. Spend the rest of the day, touring the UNESCO-listed archaeological remains on Masada.
Herod chose this remote site for its steep 450m-high (1476ft) cliffs that acted as a natural defense against attacks. He added fortified walls to make the palace even more impenetrable. In the event of a revolt, Herod planned to retreat here with his court. The palace-fortress was designed to ensure that he would be able to live on Masada for as long as necessary. See the large storerooms that would have held supplies and the vast cisterns carved into the rock to store water for drinking and irrigation so that there would be a permanent food supply.
Herod’s engineers devised a system of channels and aqueducts to gather water that flowed from the Judean Mountains. See Herod’s northern palace, built on two levels over the edge of the northern cliff. Also see the western guest palace, the magnificence Roman bathhouse with mosaic floors and frescos, and the remains of a Byzantine-era church. Tour the synagogue built many years after Herod’s death, by Jewish zealots during the Great Revolt of 63AD-70AD.
The rebels remained on Masada, holding out as long as they could against Roman legions that gathered at the foot of the mount. Eventually, after a long siege, the Romans broke through Masada’s fortified embankment only to find that the rebels had chosen suicide rather than be caught and surrender their freedom. This dramatic event turned Masada into a symbol of Jewish determination to be free in their land.
As the sun sets, take a short walk down Masada’s Roman battery footpath to see the Masada Light and Sound Show. The show uses light projected on the ancient cliffs, pyrotechnics, and sound effects to tell the story of the Jewish rebels of Masada. This awe-inspiring show ends at 21:00 and you should arrive back in Tel Aviv by about 23:00.